Do I have to drive my career?

Career development

Guest blogger, Amanda Whiteford, Principal Consultant at Talent & Potential says the answer to this question is simple: if you don’t no one else will!

It’s a fair question though – ‘drive’ suggests momentum, energy, progress. But what if you don’t feel that way about your career? What if it’s right for you to focus on other things right now? As with all good decisions, let’s look at the pros and cons before deciding on a final answer.

The advantages of driving your career:

  • Only you know what you want from your career at any given time, so if you're in the driving seat you can steer yourself towards opportunities: let people know what you’d like to achieve, become involved in, or gain insight into.
  • When your drive your career, you take time to reflect on your strengths – especially those that energise you and set you apart from peers. This makes it easier to build a personal brand and reputation, to let others know what you love doing and what particular achievements have brought you satisfaction.
  • Knowing your weaknesses also becomes important so you can manage them. It helps build understanding about which opportunities to accept and which to refuse.
  • Having that focus and personal insight imbues you with energy which, in turn, will build confidence and the ability to take the initiative.
  • It also builds a positive reputation which, in turn, will gain the attention of managers on the look-out for people interested in helping them achieve their goals and perhaps who they might develop into leaders for the future.
  • Equally, if there are times when you need to balance your work-life with home-life demands, you know when to take your foot off the accelerator and cruise for a while; producing good quality work but without a stretch or challenge which would overload you. This keeps people healthy and feeling in control.
  • All this leads to self-directed development that’s of immediate importance and relevance. It allows visibility of development opportunities that exist day-to-day at work, but which are often overlooked - like joining or supporting new projects, volunteering for additional responsibilities or gaining a mentor.
  • Most of all, driving your career will keep you employable and aware of changes within your organisation and industry, as well as keeping skills up-to-date.

The disadvantages of driving your career:

  • It takes time; you have to think about more than just your day-to-day work.
  • You have to keep up-to-date with industry changes, new tools, techniques and programmes, or what competitors are doing so you know whether the direction you're travelling in remains desirable and right.
  • You have to be self-motivated and review progress regularly.
  • Building networks is essential: you have to to let others know what you've achieved and what you'd like to aim for in the future.

What are the advantages of NOT driving your career? Against the lists above, almost nothing! The disadvantages though are clear:

If you take a passive approach to your career and wait for others to notice your work – brilliant though it may be – you put your destiny ‘in their hands’, and they may be busy doing other things. Equally, if you don't take control, your approach to life remains in the parent-child domain, waiting for permission to do things others simply grab, this puts you on the back foot – permanently. Passivity never attracts the attention of managers. And if you appear to lack energy and enthusiasm, people will assume you're not interested in progressing and you'll be overlooked. Worst of all you're likely to become blinkered in your approach to further development and skills growth, meaning your knowledge becomes out-dated, leaving you vulnerable when change occurs and new skills and attributes are required.

TAKE AWAY

You’ve guessed it, I’m biased in favour of us all driving our careers but hopefully, the arguments above will convince you to join me in believing in the value of driving your career and in making the time to do so. As the saying goes: Luck is when preparation meets opportunity!

If you'd like to know more about empowering your people to drive great careers, our digital platform, CareerBurst, offers regularly updated, clear, career guidance for employees, as well giving management the tools to help support career conversations and progression. It has been developed through a strategic partnership between TWM and Talent & Potential.

Amanda Whiteford has an HR career spanning 25 years. She has worked at senior management level, directly supporting executive teams with recruiting, identifying and developing leadership and management skills throughout the organisation, winning several awards along the way. 

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